Herbert: ‘We’ll look at any and every opportunity’ for Healthy Utah

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SALT LAKE CITY -- A game of political hardball is being played in the legislature over Healthy Utah, the governor's Medicaid expansion compromise that would provide some health care coverage to the state's poorest residents.

Utah House Republican leaders have announced they won't hear Senate Bill 164, which the Senate passed. The Senate just killed one of their own competing bills to send a unified message to the House, and the governor is considering executive action or forcing lawmakers to go into special session to get something done.

"We'll look at any and every opportunity we have to get to the right point," Governor Gary Herbert told reporters during his monthly news conference on KUED.

Asked if he is considering using some lawmakers' bills as leverage--or even plans to relocate the Utah State Prison--the governor was muted.

"I don’t think gamesmanship is good politics," he said. "We ought to all look for what is the best outcome and be statesmen. We ought to stand tall in our positions, whatever we decide them to be on the right or on the left. We ought to say here’s my justification for it and let the chips fall where they may. But we ought to be open and transparent about it."

But House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, is not budging. Meeting with reporters on Thursday, he reiterated that the votes were not there to pass Healthy Utah--so why discuss it?

"The status of Healthy Utah has not changed," he said. "At all."

Democrats were livid.

"To not even get a hearing or be acted upon, what I want to do is grab a torch and go over there," shouted Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City.

House Minority Leader Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, rejected the Speaker's claims that too much time has been spent on Healthy Utah.

"I ask, what is more important than the lives of Utahns? We are amazed at his lack of perspective on this issue.  The House and its committees has spent time on horse tripping, bicycles in drive thrus, and feral pigs. But the GOP leadership is blocking access to healthcare from even receiving a hearing. The Republican Leadership team is cowering behind the starting line," he said.

On Thursday, the Senate killed its competing coverage bill, SB153, dubbed "Frail Utah" and later "Vulnerable Utah," to send a unified message to the House. Healthy Utah sponsor, Sen. Brian Shiozawa, R-Salt Lake City, insisted that Healthy Utah was not dead and negotiations would continue with the House.

"I feel like we’re giving the wrong signal to the House if we send two bills over," said Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, who voted to kill Frail Utah.

Sen. Shiozawa told FOX 13 that he intended to meet Thursday night with Speaker Hughes.

"My appeal to the house leadership would be simply this: If you are willing to do transportation, gas tax, look at education, Bear Lake, and golden retrievers you ought to deal with the most significant issue, health care, that faces this state in years," he said.

12 comments

  • nobody

    Democrats and the governor are throwing temper tantrums. Civility goes out the window when it’s democrats that are mad. Jim Dabakis has a good idea, though. Maybe the taxpayers need to “grab a torch”.

  • James De Mita

    Hughes, you talk like your some God Father, even with a New York Italian accent. You determine the law? There is not one valid reason to not pass this, period. I am a first generation Italian American from New York, and attended law school. You tell me why the bill is bad? I am going to move to the 51 district just to put one million dollars in your appoints campaign, and vote against you. My relatives back in New York call me and say, “Why do those Mormons hate the poor people so much?” You tell me?

  • Brad

    Wehave already given the money to the feds for this program. Yet we refuse it? Why? What’s the saying an once of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

  • Michael Nance

    Look at what happened to the last speaker of the house that wouldn’t even consider looking at this bill no ill will intended but I am wondering why he is passing up money that we have already paid to the federal government I wonder is it because it has no money in it to line his greedy pocket like the prison deal is going to do VOTE these crooked guys out of office.

      • Michael Nance

        Both democrats and republicans are both thinking they are better than everyone else but if we can get some money back from Washington to help the poor I am all for it yes the democrats are spend happy and the republicans are stingy as hell but they need to do what they are elected for and listen to the ones that put them there and stop worrying about moving the prison just to line there pockets and trying to raise the gas tax it seems that anything to line there pockets they are all for but if it helps someone other than them they won’t even here it we need to recall these idiots or remember to vote them out next election .

  • Eric Mills

    As the late Molly Ivins opined, “All anyone needs to enjoy the State Legislature is a strong stomach and a complete insensitivity to the needs of the people.”

    • nobody

      Government should keep us free, not provide for our “needs”. There is a better way to help people than to throw money at a corrupt and wasteful system.

  • John

    We have really had enough of executive action in this country Republican Governors should not jump on this bandwagon. that being said legislature should vote on it, be accountable stand up for what you believe not bringing it to the floor for a vote is cowardly. Man-up and woman-up, take a stand put your name on it up or down.

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